30 Must Read Books For High School Students This Summer

01 JUN 2022

It’s finally summer! If you’re like most students, you’re ready to put the textbooks away for a few months and take a break from the tests and papers. While you’ve definitely earned a well-deserved break, summer is also the perfect time to escape with a classic novel, crack open that book you didn’t get a chance to read during the school year, or dig deeper into books related to your future college major. Here are 30 books to consider adding into your reading list this summer!


Why Is Summer Reading Important?

While it might be tempting to put all books away for the summer or get lost in a fun beach read, consider using this uninterrupted time to dive into some of the world’s best literature and expand your learning beyond the classroom.

Reading over the summer has many benefits. One of the most important benefits of summer reading is that it helps you retain the information you learned during school. Daily reading helps maintain younger students’ literacy skills and increases their knowledge of the world around them. Middle and high students who read during the summer develop stronger critical thinking skills and typically score higher on their SAT, ACT, and AP Exams!

What Is The Summer Slide?

The loss of knowledge over the summer is commonly known as the “summer slide.” Teachers expect students to lose some knowledge they gained during the previous school year. To help negate this problem, teachers recommend reading over the summer. Statistics show that students who read over the summer gain an average of one month of reading proficiency!

Students who don’t read over the summer lose two to three months of proficiency. If this pattern continues over many summers, the loss can add up to years of proficiency loss. Once students reach high school, it’s estimated that ⅔ of the reading achievement gap is related to summer learning loss.

Here Are The Benefits of Summer Reading

  • Encourages a love of reading
  • Builds strong reading habits
  • Helps maintain reading/literacy skills
  • Increases knowledge base
  • Develops strong critical thinking skills (and higher test scores!)
  • Helps prevent summer learning loss
  • Helps students stay busy over the summer
  • Decreases stress and improves mental health

Summer Reading List For High School Students 

With so many quality books to read, it can be difficult to choose just a few each summer. It’s a great idea to diversify your summer reading list so you can gain more depth and breadth of knowledge.

Consider adding a literary classic, contemporary novel, self-help book, memoir, and even a graphic novel to your list. If you’re passionate about a particular topic or know what you want to study in college, consider diving deeper into that topic.

#1 Book You Must Read This Summer

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This book takes you behind the doors of the world's top college admissions offices, revealing the highly strategic selection processes applied by institutions whose reputations depend on the number of students they admit and the tens of thousands that they don't. Accepted! is the summer must-read guide to demystifying the increasingly competitive world of elite college admissions.

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30 Great Books To Add To Your Reading List This Summer

1. When Breath Becomes Air

Author: Paul Kalanithi

Genre: Biography, Medicine

Kalanithi wrote about his experiences with death while working in the ICU of Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. He was struck by how often patients were diagnosed with terminal illness but had no idea they were dying. His book explores the way our brains deal with uncertainty and how this can be manipulated by doctors.

2. Atomic Habits

Author: James Clear

Genre: Self Development, Productivity

Atomic Habits is a book written by James Clear about how to achieve success through small changes in our daily lives. It's a great read if you're looking to improve yourself or just want to learn more about personal development.

3. How To Win Friends And Influence People

Author: Dale Carnegie

Genre: Self Development, Communication, Business

It's one thing to be able to influence people, but how can you actually win friends? This book was written by Dale Carnegie in 1936 and has sold more than 30 million copies since then. It's considered to be one of the best-selling books ever written.

4. The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Genre: Race, Social Justice, Fiction

This book is about the story of Starr Carter, a black teenager who witnesses the shooting death of her childhood friend Khalil at the hands of police officers. She decides to take matters into her own hands and exact revenge on the men who killed her friend.

5. Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Author: Ed Catmull

Genre: Self Development, Business, Leadership

Creativity Inc. follows the story of how Pixar was able to achieve such great success with their movies. It is also about how they were able to maintain this level of creativity throughout all of these years. They have been around since 1986, but they are still going strong today.

6. The Little Prince

Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Genre: Classics, Philosophy

The Little Prince was written by French author Antoine de Saint- Exupery in 1943. It tells the story of a small boy who lives with his mother in a faraway planet. His father leaves them one day without warning. He meets a fox who gives him three roses. He then meets a grown-up prince who takes him to another planet where he learns about love, friendship, courage, kindness, and loyalty.

7. Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Author: Bill Burnett, Dave Evans

Genre: Self Development, Career Development

If you want to live a happier life, you have to design it. This book provides a framework for designing a life that works for you. It's about finding out who you are and what you're good at, then building a career around those strengths.

8. Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

Author: Adam Grant

Genre: Leadership, Self Development

We all know that success doesn't come easy. It takes hard work and dedication. But what if there was another way? What if instead of working harder or being smarter, we could be more effective? What if we were able to harness our natural ability to give and take? This book explores how we can learn to become better givers and takers.

9. Don’t Think of An Elephant!

Author: George Lakoff

Genre: Political Science

We have all heard about the power of metaphors. But how can they be used to change our behavior or even our beliefs? This is where George Lakoff's work comes in. He has developed a model of metaphor, which he calls “metaphorical framing”. It explains why some people are more likely to accept certain ideas while others reject them.

10. Grit

Author: Angela Duckworth

Genre: Education

It's easy to dismiss grit as something only successful people have. But research suggests that grit can be learned. Angela Duckworth, author of 'Grit', says that grit is about passion and perseverance. She explains that this means having a strong sense of purpose and being able to see obstacles as challenges rather than roadblocks.

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11. How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs

Author: Guy Raz

Genre: Entrepreneurship

This is a book about how people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Jack Dorsey, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and many others have gone through different ways to succeed in their lives. It is also a story of how they overcame obstacles, failures and challenges to achieve their dreams.

12. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Author: Jenny Odell

Genre: Self Development, Productivity

It's time to stop doing things just because they are expected of us. We can't keep up with the pace of life if we try to keep up with all the demands on our attention. So we have to learn how to do nothing. And this means learning how to resist the attention economy.

13. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

Author: Michel Foucault

Genre: History, Philosophy

Foucault's book explores the history of madness, particularly in Western culture. He argues that insanity has been a defining characteristic of human civilization since ancient times. His work also examines how this idea of insanity has changed throughout history, with some periods seeing more emphasis placed on mental health and others seeing more emphasis placed on the social stigma associated with being mentally ill.

14. Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds

Author: Carmine Gallo

Genre: Communication

If you want to be successful at public speaking, you have to understand how other people think. And if you want to understand how other people are thinking, you have to talk like them. That's where this book comes in. It contains nine secrets that top speakers share with their audiences.

15. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Author: Carol S. Dweck

Genre: Self Development, Growth Mindset

Dweck explains why people who believe they are smart or talented tend to perform better than those who think they are just lucky. She also discusses how our mindset affects our ability to learn new things.

16. Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Author: Kim Malone Scott

Genre: Communication, Leadership

A lot of people are afraid to be direct with their employees because they fear losing their jobs or being labeled as “mean bosses.” But if you want to get things done at work, you have to be able to communicate clearly and directly. If you don’t, then no one will know how to help you move forward. This book will teach you how to be a kickass boss without losing your humanity.

17. Daily Rituals: Women at Work

Author: Mason Currey

Genre: Productivity, Career Development

The idea behind this book is simple: women are more likely to succeed if they have rituals at work. It's true! I've seen it time and time again. So, why don't more women have rituals at work? Well, there are many reasons, but one of them is that most women aren't taught how to be successful at work. They're taught how to be good mothers, wives, daughters, friends, etc., but not how to be successful at their jobs.

18. A People’s History of the United States

Author: Howard Zinn

Genre: History, Politics, Social Justice

This book is about the history of the United States since 1776. It covers the American Revolution, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, World War I and II, the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War III, Vietnam, Watergate, Reaganomics, Clintonism, Bushism, Obamaism, Trumpism, and more.

19. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chobsky

Genre: Fiction, Resilience, Inclusivity

It would be easy to say that this book was written with teenagers in mind. But I think it's more accurate to say that it was written with anyone who has ever felt different or isolated in their life. This novel is about Charlie, a teenager who feels like he doesn't fit in anywhere. He's constantly being picked on at school, bullied online, and ignored by his family. His only friend is a girl named Sam, but she seems to have her own problems. Charlie decides to take matters into his own hands and write a letter to himself, explaining how things are going to change if he can just get through high school.

20. Persepolis

Author: Marjane Satrapi

Genre: Biography, History

This book is about life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Satrapi, who lived through this time period, uses her own experiences to tell the story of how she grew up during this tumultuous time.

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21. Their Eyes Were Watching God

Author: Zora Neale Hurston

Genre: Historical Fiction, Classics

The story follows Janie Crawford who is a free black woman living in Eatonville Florida during the late 1800's. She lives with her husband and children. Her husband has been unfaithful to her and she wants nothing more than to leave him. She decides to take matters into her own hands and runs off to live with another man. This novel was written in the form of letters between Janie and her lover. It is one of the first novels written about African Americans.

22. Brave New World

Author: Aldous Huxle

Genre: Science Fiction, Classics

This book is set in a future where people live in a society ruled by corporations. People are born with a genetic code that determines their role in life. Those who are intelligent and creative are given special privileges. But those who refuse to conform or rebel against the system are punished.

23. Night

Author: Elie Wiesel

Genre: History

A Jewish boy born in Hungary, was deported to Auschwitz at age 14 with his family, where they were murdered. He survived and returned home after World War II. His book, “Night,” tells the story of his survival.

24. We Should All Be Feminists

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: Social Justice

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes about her experiences growing up in Nigeria and how she became aware of the problems facing women there. She also talks about the role of feminism in Africa today.

25. Can't Stop Won't Stop (YA edition)

Author: Jeff Chang

Genre: Music, History, Social Justice

The hip-hop generation is one of the most influential generations in American history. It has shaped culture, politics, entertainment, fashion, music, sports, technology, and even language. This book explores how this hip-hop came together and how they have influenced society.

26. 12 Years A Slave

Author: Solomon Northrup

Genre: History

Solomon Northup was born free but kidnapped and sold into slavery at a very young age. He escaped and eventually made his way back home to New York City, where he wrote this memoir about his experiences. It includes details of how he was captured and held captive, how he managed to escape, and the journey he had to make back home.

27. Go Tell It On The Mountain

Author: James Baldwin

Genre: Fiction, Resilience, Inclusivity

Go Tell It On the Mountain is one of the best-known works of African American literature. Published in 1953, this novel tells the story of a young boy named John Grimes who leaves his home in North Carolina to live with relatives in Harlem, New York City. There he meets a group of black men who are trying to make their way in America during the Great Depression.

28. Into The Wild

Author: Jon Krakauer

Genre: Adventure, Outdoors

Into The Wild tells the story of Chris McCandless, who left his home in Alaska in 1992 and hitchhiked across North America with nothing but $25 and a backpack.

29. The White Album

Author: Joan Didion

Genre: Cultural Critiques

The White Album was originally published in 1979 and consists of 24 essays written by Joan Didion between 1968 and 1969. It is considered one of her best works and has been described as “a masterpiece of American non-fiction”.

30. The 1619 Project

Author: Nikole Hannah-Jones

Genre: History, Social Justice

The 1619 Project is a book by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones about the history of slavery in America. The book contains a collection of essays and explores how enslaved Africans were forced to work on plantations across the South. It also looks at the role of white people in supporting the institution of slavery.

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Final Thoughts

Summer is the perfect time to relax with a good book. Instead of picking up the next mindless beach read, consider reading some of the books in these lists. They’re not only compelling stories that are fun to read; they’re books that will improve your critical thinking skills, keep your mind fresh, and may even decrease stress and help prevent summer learning loss. 

If you’re interested in learning how Crimson can help you prepare for college, contact one of our academic advisors. They can provide countless resources, guides, and tips on the best ways to spend your high school summers, what to include in your college application, and how to get into your dream university.

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